A person who self-harms is somebody who deliberately injures or damages their body with intention and awareness. The act itself is often a means of coping with distress, severe depression or anxiety. Self-harming is a complex condition that can affect men, women and children of all ages. The condition is much more common than you might expect. It is estimated that one in ten young people will self-harm at some stage in their adolescence. People self-harm for various reasons. For some, it is an action that brings with it a sense of self-punishment, for others, it is a way to feel a sense of relief from trauma or emotional turmoil.
How people self-harm
There are different ways in which a person can self-harm. It can be through actions like cutting or burning, punching or abusing poisonous liquids to name a few. In the majority of cases, self-harming is kept a secret, unknown even to a person’s loved ones or closest family members. Critically, self-harm can be an early indication of suicidal tendencies.
Statistically speaking, over half of all people who commit or attempt suicide have self-harmed in the past. It is therefore vital that self-harmers are able to seek support and carefree from scrutiny, in order to fully recover. Given the covert nature inherent to self-harming, it can be incredibly difficult to know whether or not a person is suffering from this condition. People who self-harm are often able to mask it well, even to themselves. So what exactly are the signs that someone you know is self-harming?
Covering up of the body: People who self-harm often engage in the act of covering up their fresh wounds, bruises or scars, particularly on their arms and wrists.
Unexplained injuries: Recurring injuries on wrists, arms, thighs and chest is also a strong indicator that somebody is currently self-harming.
Depression: Low mood, intense feeling of emotions and a lack of motivation could also indicate that a person may possibly be self-harming.
Isolation: A person may steadily withdraw from social obligations or loved ones.
Suicidal thoughts: People may, but not always, experience an overwhelming sense that they do not want to carry on with living. If you are currently feeling suicidal, do not suffer alone, contact the emergency services, a doctor, or a loved one right away.
Low sense of self: People who self-harm often have difficulty in feeling good about themselves, many harbouring a sense of blame, shame or guilt. As such, self-harmers often experience a severe lack of confidence or self-loathing.
Why do people self-harm?
Past trauma: Many people who self-harm have experienced significant trauma in their lives. Be it grief, miscarriage, abuse or violence, there are a whole host of traumatic reasons why a person may engage in self-harming as a strategy of coping.
Psychological causes: There are numerous mental health conditions that may trigger the act of self-harming. Indeed, self-harm is often linked to common mental health issues such as anxiety or depression, as well as the less common psychological conditions such as borderline personality disorder.
Emotional turmoil: The build-up of anger, stress, guilt, shame or hopelessness can be enough to trigger acts of self-harm. For some people, it functions as a short-term fix or release from the intensity of negative and difficult feelings.
Social or environmental triggers: People may experience great troubles in their everyday life. For example, work stress, family issues, or being bullied at school. Concerns such as this are enough on their own to trigger the condition.
Recovering from regular self-harming takes time. The road to recovery is a unique process dependent upon a person’s individual circumstances. Therapeutic support is a likely avenue that can assist you in adopting the necessary coping strategies that you need to move forward in your life. The therapeutic process provides you with a confidential space in order to explore your experience in an environment free from judgement.
There are also organisations that offer support for people who self-harm. Often, these organisations will offer additional advice to family members or friends as to what they can do to help their loved ones.
If you are currently self-harming, do not suffer alone. Contacting your doctor is essential and I strongly urge you to be brave and to ask for help. Remember always, that there is no shame in your experience and there is absolutely a path of recovery for you!
Wishing you strength and courage,